Open Adoption Is...

One mother tells her open adoption stories, and how her family figured it all out from meeting the expectant mother to keeping in touch.

One mother tells her open adoption stories.

Open adoption begins with a tingle in your stomach when your social worker calls to say that a woman, who’s just given birth, read your portfolio. She wants to meet you. It means researching what flower color means “gratitude,” so you can stop at the florist on your way to the adoption agency for the first meeting. It’s pretending to remain calm as you walk in, with your husband and two-year-old son (and a bouquet of peach roses), and praying that your son won’t have a meltdown, giving the prospective birth mother doubts about your parenting abilities. (The toy train and snacks you brought along keep him busy.)

Open adoption is to suddenly love this woman you don’t know. It’s leaving the meeting knowing you have no control over what happens next. In between the daily calls and e-mails to your social worker for encouragement, you just wonder. How can this young woman smile when her baby is not with her, but is staying with a transition family? What does her baby—in two weeks, perhaps, your baby—look like? Later, you send her an e-mail, thanking her for considering you as her son’s future family. (And although you feel guilty about it, you pray that the birth parents sign the final paperwork.)

Open adoption is rushing to buy bottles, formula, and diapers on that amazing fourteenth day. It’s posting to friends on Facebook, that, surprise, you weren’t sure it was going to happen, so you didn’t mention it, but you’re going to be parents tomorrow at noon.

Open adoption is bringing a child home! Bliss, as you hug your sweet-smelling baby, and sadness, as you think about the birth mom. It’s e-mailing her to let her know the son she loves, but couldn’t raise, is safe at his new home. It’s deciding to share his first photos, but wondering whether she wants to see them. Then there’s the announcement to write. Do you include her name? Do you send her one?

Open adoption is learning the opinions of your extended family. A few relatives must have seen the same TV show about birth moms taking back their kids. It’s explaining your state’s adoption laws to them, and trying to convince them, and maybe yourself, that there are no “take-backs.” Before long, you might decide to stop mentioning that you have an open adoption, at least until you can discuss it without getting upset. Over time, you learn to give a short, respectful answer to the question, “Why did she give him up?”

Of course, you have questions, too. Is there a chance the birth father might not hold up his end of the open adoption contract? If that’s the case, you’ll need to figure out how to explain this to your child as he grows. You know the birth mom has information about him, but you shouldn’t ask, right? It’s realizing that you need to make your own rules about open-adoption etiquette.

Open adoption is sharing stories with your children about how one of them used to be in your tummy, while the other used to be in “M’s” tummy. It’s trying to keep M’s name a part of regular conversation. It’s holding on to Christmas presents and e-mails and letters from M, to share, someday, with your baby.

Open adoption is making a mental note to ask M whom your baby resembles, since she’s seen lots of photos by now. She writes back, and tells you your son has a smile like his birth mother’s, and eyes like his birth father.

And there are the twists and turns that you’ve been told to expect with open adoption. It’s extending an invitation to the birth mother to get together, and accepting the fact that she’s not yet ready. It’s acknowledging that, after 10 months, the birth father has not been in contact. It’s sending a photo album to your social worker to keep on file for him, just in case.

Open adoption means opening your lives to a new set of family members, who love your baby as much as you do. It’s looking forward to your next meeting with the birth mother, when she is truly ready to meet. But, in the meantime, it’s smiling when you see her name in your e-mail inbox.


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